Archipelago books — maybe right now the finest US press truly turned toward and tuned in to the world beyond these Benighted States — has just released a gorgeous eight-hundred-page bilingual tome of the Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi’s Selected Poems under the title In Praise of Defeat. The choice of poems is the author’s own, and the excellent translations from the French are by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Rather than “review” and laud the book here now, I’ll own up to the fact that it was my great pleasure to write a foreword for the book, which I’m reproducing here below. Enjoy, and then buy the book — don’t let the heft make you hesitate: the book — in Archipelago’s usual square format — rests well in the hand, is a pleasure to handle and read.
At PennSound we have now segmented — divided a recording into titled poem-length segments — a reading given by Adrienne Rich in 1973. The segmentation was done by PennSound staffer Hannah Judd.
Introduction (3:18): MP3 Burning Oneself In (1:28): MP3 On violence (2:58): MP3 Didactic Poem (1:38): MP3 In the Evening (0:55): MP3 I Dream I’m the Death of Orpheus (1:28): MP3 Unwritten Novel (2:43): MP3 The Fourth Month of the Landscape Architect (2:30): MP3 Waking in the Dark (4:26): MP3 Incipience (2:10): MP3 The Stranger (1:33): MP3 Merced (3:13): MP3 A Primary Ground (2:33): MP3 Translations (1:55): MP3 The Phenomenology of Anger (7:11): MP3 Diving Into the Wreck (4:04): MP3
Renee Gladman’s trilogy, Event Factory, The Ravickians, and Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge, shifts epic’s emphasis on a shared, foundational past to ask how one understands a community’s present. With a different speaker narrating each book peopled with overlapping, recurring characters, the texts, while written in the past tense, thematize and insist on the question of the present moment. And likewise, they insist on the present moment as a question.
[Author’s Note: My compositional method in these poems stretches across/between a number of different languages & engages (mis)translation as its key modality. This is writing that traverses Yiddish, Hebrew, & Aramaic (among other) grammars, syntaxes, & lexicons, taking English as its temporary “host” while performing perpetual inflectional slippages, often through interlingual punning & fusion slangs. – AR]